What is your current state of mind?

The prevailing mood

This Questionnaire was published in the Galway Advertiser last Thursday, as part of the lead up to the Cuirt International Festival of Literature, where I’ll be sharing the stage with John Banville on April 25th. There may be some tickets still available.

Proust Questionnaire

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The week after finishing a book, preferably in July, during the mountain stages of the Tour de France.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Napoleon, on the way back. Usually from Moscow but sometimes, too, from Elba.

Which living person do you most admire?

It can’t be easy being Barack Obama.

Which is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Indecision. No, self-pity. I hate feeling sorry for myself but it’s a talent I was born with.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Cricket bats. The pale wood is so lovely, the hope for glory so strong: I can’t resist.

What is your favourite journey?

Cycling to school with the kids, and long-haul flights. Not much in between.

On what occasion do you lie?

Whenever necessary. But if possible, no more often than that.

Which living person do you most despise?

See above – I despise no-one. That may even be true.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

I’d say the most constant love, frustratingly, is for whatever or whoever I do not have. 

When and where were you happiest?

Working in the garden of the St Columba Hotel on Iona.

Which talent would you most like to have?

In my writing I’d like to be an expert plotter. I feel a talent for plotting might make all the difference.

What is your current state of mind?

Confused, with sunny spells.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Publishing the books I write, without a doubt.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what do you think it would be?

Probably something lower on the karmic scale than a middle-class Englishman, unless I can get my act together pretty soon.

What is your most treasured possession?

My tea-chest full of diaries.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Sexual jealousy.

What is your favourite occupation?

Not being sexually jealous. I used to love my rugby, but now it’s cricket and batting. I love to bat.

What is the quality you most like in a man?


What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Humour. And bright eyes.

Who are your favourite writers?

Many are dead, but among the living I’m very keen on Margaret Atwood, Kevin Barry and Andrew Cowan (to start with an ABC).

What is your motto?

I’m increasingly drawn to something the Australian writer Kate Grenville jots in the margins of her manuscript pages: ‘Fix it later.’ For now, keep going.